WALEED ALY, HOST: The torrential rain that lashed parts of New South Wales appears to have eased but the severe flooding it sparked on the south coast has forced hundreds from their homes. Hardest hit were the towns of Nowra, Sussex Inlet and Moruya, areas only just starting to recover from the January bushfires and now they have this. It is the worst flooding in the Shoalhaven in thirty years. Fiona Phillips is the MP for Gilmore and is currently in Nowra, she joins us now. Fiona what’s the situation like where you are?
FIONA PHILLIPS, MEMBER FOR GILMORE: Yeah look, it’s just been a horrendous past few days for people, you know people in Moruya, Nowra, Sussex Inlet, you know there were evacuation orders. Still the Shoalhaven River is a concern, it has eased up a bit, but really like it’s really been so harrowing for people to have gone through so much over many many months.
CARRIE BICKMORE, HOST: Well that’s the thing, you’ve had the bushfires, then a pandemic, now the flooding, have you noticed the change in how people are coping because it’s the third thing that they’re going through?
PHILLIPS: Yes, look it’s just been terrible. Look it actually, back to the drought even before that, that was hurting so many people and it’s quite ironic that along the banks of the Shoalhaven River where we’ve been impacted by severe drought is now in flood and a flood that’s at levels that we haven’t seen for thirty years. Like it’s quite incredible. And then Moruya of course, right along our coast has been impacted by bushfires, by COVID, by, we only had a flood a couple of weeks ago as well. It’s just extraordinary. But look people, I’ve never seen a community like this, I’m so proud to be part of it, with people here, our volunteer emergency services workers and everybody that’s pulled together to help get us through every single hurdle that we faced.
STEVE PRICE, HOST: It’s such a spectacularly beautiful part of Australia, Fiona, you’re the Federal Member there. As we’ve said you’ve gone through the bushfires and now this, as the Federal Member, are the funds that have been raised through both donations and the state government getting to the people so they can rebuild? I saw some criticism today of people are still waiting to try and get their properties rebuilt.
PHILLIPS: Yes look it’s a really difficult thing. Like the Federal Government announced a $2 billion dollar fund, a bushfire fund, and I think what’s frustrating for many people is that we haven’t seen, we’ve seen some of those funds, but you know there’s money put aside there for disaster mitigation that hasn’t been spent. When I talk to people in our community, like it’s especially our community associations where they’ve got one road in and one road out, you know they’re talking about how do we prepare before the next bushfire season? How do we prepare for the next disaster? So that’s what we should be doing, making sure that our community centres and our evacuation centres have that telecommunications that is going to get us through a disaster, so that we have that battery backup. We don’t ever want to see a situation that we’ve seen before in the bushfires and I think to have that and then of course COVID and then the floods on top of that, as I said it’s been a really big blow to our area. But we do live in a wonderful place, it’s beautiful, we have the most beautiful people, we will get through this, but we absolutely need to be doing more, we need to be making sure that those funds get to people.
PRICE: Well clearly they’re not getting to people. I mean I read of a couple today lost their farm house during the bushfires, they’re living out of a caravan, the caravan’s now leaking. The husband in that couple has had some health issues in the last couple of weeks, including a heart attack. How can we leave people stranded and abandoned like that?
PHILLIPS: Well look the government absolutely has to be stepping in, there’s no doubt about that. Look it’s been a fight to be honest right through and I think what we’re seeing as well even with the floods, you know we’ve got people that even if they have, their property has been cleared, now we’ve had a situation where we’ve got floods like washing you know that soil away even more so it costs more for people to rebuild. There’s a whole range of things, it is really difficult, but it has compounded on. The government absolutely has to do more. We need to make sure that we’re getting more funds to people that need help.
PETER HELLIER, HOST: Fiona of course you’re evacuating during an emergency where you are trying to evacuate people but keep social distancing as part of it. Is that, how are you managing that or does that go out of the window in times like this?
PHILLIPS: Well look we’ve got a great emergency management team of volunteers, the local councils, basically what’s happened with these evacuations is the first advice is for if people don’t, you know they need to evacuate first of all go to family and friends. If not they needed to go to the central a point and they would actually be given temporary accommodation so and that was because of COVID-19. You know we were probably a little bit lucky this time in terms of the evacuations, they weren’t through the peak school holiday tourist time as we saw in the bushfires which saw we needed to get a lot of people out in a very short space of time. You know a lot of these communities are smaller communities, so the vast majority were able to be housed with family and friends.
ALY: Well hang in there Fiona, we’re thinking of you, all the best from here.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.